It was probably just a matter of time before it happened to me. Real estate agents who take a vacation after going too long without one can get carried away. They may return with a tattoo, a vision-quest name, or a new mate they met at a blackjack table. Me? I returned telling everyone I was moving to the South American country of Uruguay.
I initially went from Washington State, where I lived, for a long needed getaway and to investigate the potential for real estate referrals and investment. But while I was in Uruguay I experienced some unexpected surprises. Like in Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital.
It has Spanish influences and native traditions—as I expected to find in a Latin America city. But it also has neoclassic architecture and strong Italian influences, which I didn’t expect. Uruguayans meet for pizza, greet each other with a kiss on the cheek, and speak Spanish with an Italian-like intonation. There is even opera.
Uruguay’s southern coast is dotted with beach towns that fill up with vacationers in the summer. I spent time in Punta del Este, the largest beach resort in Uruguay.
Punta del Este is like a buffet of things I like. There is natural beauty, surfing, great places to run and cycle, and interesting people to meet. It has a relaxed elegance that reminds me of Santa Barbara.
And though I knew that 85% of Uruguay’s landmass is grazing and farmland—most of it is prairie, as I had read about before my trip—seeing groups of ñandú (large flightless birds that look similar to ostriches) running across the Uruguayan countryside was a real surprise.
On this first visit, some aspects of Uruguay felt familiar… but they were combined differently, to make something that, to me, was new and intriguing.
Uruguay’s culture reminds me of a bygone era in the U.S. People still take time for each other. On the street, strangers quickly come to the aid of an elderly or blind person having difficulty. Men let women enter buildings, elevators, and buses first. And for most locals, weekends with family are more valuable than the things overtime pay can buy.
The people I met on that initial vacation seemed less busied with rules and red tape. Most get by fine without a car and there is less pressure to keep up with the Joneses. It seemed that in Uruguay it is still possible to live a simpler life.
I started thinking: Why couldn’t I rearrange the components of my life to make something different. I could start a new chapter in my life, one with less busyness and worry and more free time to enjoy myself and try some new things.
I pictured myself living in Uruguay. Did this make sense, or was I just an overworked real estate agent with free time getting carried away?
The idea of moving to Uruguay still made sense the next morning. It still made sense after I returned to Washington. And after seven years in Uruguay, living a simpler life with more control of my time it makes more sense than ever.
Check out out David Hammond’s video below to find out what first impressed him about Uruguay.
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